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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2006 - Part 1
       
 
July 2006 - part 2 <--- August 2006 - part 1 ---> August 2006 - part 2
  

August 14, 2006


TASTING - ANOTHER FOUR CLYNELISHES
Clynelish
Clynelish 16 yo 1989/2006 ‘Northern Star’ (55.1%, Art of Whisky, sherry cask) Colour: gold. Nose: rather powerful, starting on bold notes of rubber and hot ham. It seems to be much more phenolic than usual but that may well come from the sherry. Quite some caramel, gravy, balsamic vinegar, grilled beef… A whole BBQ! Hints of fir honey, breadcrumb, smoked tea… Rather unusual but getting more classical after a few minutes, with quite some toffee, Kahlua, torrefaction… It doesn’t stop improving, getting cleaner and cleaner and much more ‘caky’ - and expectedly waxy. Hints of coal smoke. Mouth: a powerful and extremely toffeeish attack, creamy and nervous at the same time. Lots of candy sugar, maple syrup, notes of Pedro Ximenez, dried bananas and figs… Lots of sherry but also a certain saltiness… Lots of liquorice as well. Hugely concentrated in fact, almost like some liquid sweets for big boys. The finish is long, coating, thick, very toffeeish and with again lots of salt. Well, the sherry really dominates the malt here but the result is very far from being unpleasant, quite the opposite. 87 points.
Clynelish 32 yo 1974/2006 (58.6%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 266 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this one starts incredibly phenolic, just like a Brora from the same years. Peat, smoke, mustard, wet hay, hints of manure, cow stable… Amazing. Very complex but rather sharp, developing on old pu-erh tea, fresh celeriac, tar, Also something very mineral, flinty, ashy like in the old Clynelishes (from the old distillery). Whiffs of crushed mint leaves, high-end herb liqueur and just a few notes of rubber (nothing disturbing). Ah, yes, also horseradish. Just superb! Mouth: an even peatier attack and lots of presence, with an invading attack on gentian, smoked tea, a rather farmy peat and a superb oiliness. Something beautifully bitter and tons of pepper, even chilli, grass juice, very strong liquorice, tar… Amazingly Brora-ish and extremely far from the usual hugely fruity Clynelishes from the same years. And what a superb smokiness indeed, especially at the long and very assertive finish that’s all on peat, liquorice, leather and all sorts of ‘concentrated herbs’. Really explosive, I love it. 92 points.
Clynelish 22 yo 1983/2005 (54,4%, SMWS 26.43, 247 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts neatly spirity, quite crisp, and then develops on many sorts of fruits such as grapefruit, watermelon, cider apples or not too ripe kiwis. Nice sharpness. The trademark waxiness is well here, as well as a sharp minerality (flints). Let’s try it with a little water: that works, even more minerality, freshness, crispiness… Another ‘riesling’ Clynelish, no need to say it’s obligatorily a hit here in Alsace. Mouth (neat): sweet, very fruity, immensely waxy and very nervous on the tongue. A perfect bitterness and quite some pepper. Lemon skin, mastic and propolis with some paprika and walnut skin. With water now: the waxiness gets more ‘resonant’, with also huge notes of walnuts arising, almond milk… The finish is long and extremely waxy now, with something of an ultra-dry sherry or vin jaune. Excellent expression despite its austerity and sharpness. 88 points.
Clynelish 12 yo 1993 (60%, Cadenhead) Colour: white wine. Nose: just as spirity as the SMWS but also much more closed. Lemon juice, ashes… Cologne? That’s almost all, but water should help: well, not really, it stays quite closed even after fifteen minutes, maybe just a little more citrusy… Mouth (neat): much rougher and younger than the SMWS, with again lots of lemon but also pear juice like in many young malts, tutti fruti eau-de-vie. Way too raw like that, so let’s add water again: not much development I’m afraid. Always this pear spirit, with quite some tannins in the background (grape seeds, over-infused tea). The finish is long but simple and slightly acrid. It isn’t too bad in fact, just quite uninteresting. 77 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 

 

MUSICRecommended listening - Today we have some good, easy American music by Cindy Bullens. It's called Neverland.mp3. Please buy her music!

  

August 13, 2006


Lene Lovich

CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
LENE LOVICH

The Underworld, Camden Town, London
August 5th 2006

I always thought that Lene Lovich was the bee’s knees, as nice as ninepence, the cat’s whiskers, A1 at Lloyd’s, the real McCoy, and the mutt’s nuts. Know what I mean? Jozzer called her “a load of old codswallop. Ear candy, that’s all. A nine-day wonder”. Maybe he was right, because she seemed to exit my musical life almost as quickly as she entered, leaving me with nothing but a copy of her first album Stateless, which must be lying ‘round here somewhere. In fact apart from those of her tunes that seem to be on the permanent mega-gigabytes of randomly shuffled music that plays round my head day and night I’d sort of forgotten all about her, until I recently saw a much younger singer on TV somewhere who was clearly trying to ape her inimitable style. So when I saw the advert for this gig the die was, as they say, cast in stone.

So that’s why we’re in this dive of a place in Camden Town, the Underworld (actually it’s under a pub), a sleazy Punk and Metal venue, although tonight it’s devoid of the sleazy rent-a-punks who normally hang out at Camden Tube station, charging tourists a fiver to have their picture taken. Indeed apart from a few clearly disorientated student-visitors, the fat balding bloke with glasses (the Fan), and the friends and family of the two rather indifferent support bands, it’s a pretty sparse and uninteresting crowd. And uninterested – the Spanish girl next to me spends the whole night smoking, texting, and grunting at her boyfriend. Rock and roll!

And when it said Lene Lovich it should have said Lene and Les, because she is accompanied by long-standing partner, co-writer and co-producer Les Chappell, who supports with keyboards and guitar. No disrespect to Les, but had it not been for Lene you might have mistaken them for a Sunday lunchtime pub bar outfit. But not with Lene. She should know better – her bus pass can’t be far away, but rather than slowing down she seems to have camped it up. And if she’s not clinically insane then I’m an, err…Englishman. The clothes and bedraggled bits and pieces are heavier and blacker, her Transylvanian accent thicker (by the way- she was born in the USA but brought up in Hull in the UK, a city once, and perhaps unfairly described, as “the arsehole of the universe”), her voice richer, her dancing dafter, and her songs darker. Self parody was never too far away. It’s a bit like coming across a pair of Goth pensioners at the Bowls Club.
But I have to give the old girl (and Les) credit – clearly sitting at home watching the National Lottery show on a Saturday night with a mug of cocoa is not for them. So instead they give us a mixture of songs from last year’s Shadows and Dust album (anyone desperate to buy a copy might care to drop by the Cancer Research shop in Chiswick in a week’s time, ‘cos that’s where mine’s going), at least one that I haven’t tracked down anywhere, and of course some of the greatest hits from the Stiff years. It was fantastic. ‘Little Rivers’ from Shadows was a really good song well performed, on like ‘Bird song’ she used her voice like a Theremin, ‘Wicked witch’ (also from Shadows) was bonkers, but how does she dance around like that? And Stateless classics ‘Sleeping beauty’ and ‘Home is where the heart is’ were as truthful to the original as they could be with just one pub guitar or keyboard, rather than a six piece backing band. Strangely the worst of the lot was encore ‘Lucky number’, the ‘Ooh ah,ah ooh’ (or was it ‘Ah ooh, ooh ah’?) song which propelled her to fame. But by that time we were enjoying ourselves too much to care. You know sometimes you just have to suspend your critical faculties and say “respect”. Lene and Les, I honour performance, and I honour your performance, and may you never stop. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Many thanks, Nick! I remember Lene Lovich perfectly well! For us it was her Lucky numbers indeed and alongside the B52's, Talking Heads, XTC and Nina Hagen, it was the part of 'new wave' music you could hear in discotheques over here... But when was it again? 1978? 1979? 1980? Anyway, here's a little Lovich music with her hits Lucky numbers.mp3 (I think it's 'Uh ooh, uh ah') and the interesting and partly Yma-Sumac-esque Bird song.mp3.
 
Lochside

TASTING - TWO LOCHSIDES

Lochside 21 yo 1979/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 306 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: not the much anticipated fruity explosion at first nosing but all the constituents are well here, even if a little restrained: tangerines, mangos, ripe bananas… But all that takes off after a moment, joined by litchis, melon, fresh pineapples, pears (buttery ones), even a little coconut milk… It’s not an ‘obvious’ fruitiness, though, more something very subtle, very fresh and very elegant. Excellent Lochside!

Mouth: exactly as expected, perfectly fruity (please see the list above) with a nice structure brought by notes of lemon zest, sweet pepper and strong tea. The finish is rather long but maybe just a tad drying and bitter (the notes of lemon zests having grown even bolder). But it’s Lochside as we like it, an elegant fruit bomb. 90 points.
Lochside 24 yo 1981 (59.1%, Cadenhead) Colour: straw. Nose: starts less fresh and less fruity, much more marked by the wood (sherry?) More on grapefruits, crystallised lemon, tea… It gets then quite rubbery, even grassy… Too bad, really, but maybe water will put it on the right track… Well, that works partially because we do have more fruits now (green apples, white gooseberries) but not the tropical ones. And the rubber comes out even stronger, alas. Mouth (neat): quite better than the nose now, the trademark fruitiness managing to shine through the sherry. But it’s still a little too rough, too aggressive to be enjoyed without water. So, with water: good news, it killed the sherry and the rubber but it did not really reveal new fruit layers except citrus fruits and quite some tannins. The finish is quite long, though, but a little bitter, drying and disturbingly salty (considering the general profile). 77 points.
  

August 12, 2006


TASTING - TWO COLEBURNS BY SIGNATORY
Coleburn Coleburn 14 yo 1983/1997 (43%, Signatory, cask #796) Colour: straw. Nose: really fruitful at first nosing (mostly on pears and pineapples) but alas there’s lots of yoghurtish and feinty aromas (mashed potatoes, mashed celeriac) that are soon to develop, as well as something like dirty wood and Alka-Seltzer. Too bad, we can also get enjoyable hints of fern, fennel and anise but they are almost totally masked by the feintiness. The whole is rather difficult, I’d say, getting quite cardboardy with time.
Mouth: a very sweet attack but also something bitter in the background (ginger, apple seeds, turnips). Hints of liquorice roots, un-sugared tea with lemon… It’s getting even more bitter with time and the finish isn’t too long but very grassy with quite some wood and a pinch of salt. Well… 72 points.
Coleburn 36 yo 1970/2006 (62.4%, Signatory, cask #00/1142, 233 bottles) This one comes from a wine treated puncheon, a practice that’s now forbidden. Colour: pale gold. Nose: sure it’s powerful but quite some aromas manage to come through the spirit (by the way, 62% at 36 yo , isn’t that amazing?) Lots of crystallized quince and lemon, Turkish delights, tons of ginger. There’s also quite some fennel again, angelica, earl grey tea, lemon balm, as well as whiffs of menthol. A very interesting profile, both lemony and minty. Mouth: an extremely woody and rather acrid attack with hordes of tannins invading your palate, quite some varnish, lots of alcohol… Well, we could nose it neat but now water is needed (while the nose gets very farmy): oh yes, that works beautifully, the whole becoming much sweeter and fruity (bananas) while the tannins don’t get any more aggressive. Lots of tea as well, a little paraffin… Interesting I’d say, especially the long, nicely bitter and lemony finish (well, not really lemon but rather lemon skin and seeds). Lots of wood but other than that this one is really ‘young’. Not the most drinkable malt, though. 83 points.

 

MUSICHighly recommended listening - We're in 1970 again and Jimi Hendrix and his Band of Gypsies (aka Billy Cox and Buddy Miles) do Who knows.mp3. Good 'n' heavier...

Jimi Hendrix
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 
  

August 11, 2006


Glen Scotia 30yo 1975/2006 (47.5%, The Whisky Fair, rum barrel)

 

 

 

 

TASTING - TWO NEW GLEN SCOTIAS BY THE WHISKY FAIR (including a peaty one!)

Glen Scotia 30 yo 1975/2006 (47.5%, The Whisky Fair, rum barrel) Colour: gold. Nose: a very interesting start on slightly rancid butter, ‘clean’ manure and dried longans (even faint hints of durian, he-he). Notes of sake, ham, cheese spread… All these unusual notes start to vanish after a few minutes, giving way to a nice fruitiness (apple juice, kiwi, very ripe pineapples) and to something frankly grassy (newly cut grass, apple skin, fresh walnuts). Quite some vanilla as well and some discrete oaky tones. Extremely interesting. Mouth: a rather sweet attack, but firm and hugely fruity (oranges). Then we have an enjoyable grassiness (green tea, capers, salicornia, green asparagus) and quite some wax, paraffin, pepper, paprika… Something smoky in the background. Gets a little tannic and drying after a while but nothing unbearable. Also tequila? The finish is rather long, waxy, peppery and grassy, much less fruity than at the attack. Maybe not a classic but it’s very interesting, hence very likeable – and recommended. 89 points.
Glen Scotia 6 yo 1999/2006 (52.7%, OB for The Whisky Fair, peated) Another ‘unpeated’ distillery that started to distil heavily peated whisky! I guess this one is a first, isn’t it? Colour: white wine. Nose: starts hugely smoky and ashy. Coal fire, bonfire, oven, burning matchstick… It’s also rather fruity (apple and pear juice), with also something like peppered strawberries and finally notes of ginger tonic. Not extremely complex but quite different from an Islayer. Less ‘coastal’ than them and quite cleaner than most peated malts from the mainland – and with a perfect smokiness. Mouth: we have exactly the same profile on the palate. Big smoke plus fresh fruits with a perfect balance and a long, smoky and ashy finish with a salty tang. Note to peat lovers: I don’t know if Glen Scotia made lots of peated malt so don’t miss this one! 87 points.

 

MUSICRecommended listening - We're in 1959 and April Stevens does a slightly suggestive (and funny - and cultissim) Teach me tiger.mp3. Wowowowowowahh! Please buy her music...

April Stevens
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 
  

August 10, 2006


MUSIC AND WHISKY INTERVIEW - DIEGO SANDRIN
DIEGO SANDRIN Great news, thanks to Maniac Luc Timmermans, we finally found a very successful rock musician who’s also a genuine, die-hard whisky freak: Italy’s excellent folk-rock singer and single malt collector Diego Sandrin. Diego spent part of his professional life in the US (he even wrote a song with Lisa Marie Presley) where he gave many successful gigs and his songs have been used in several movies, for instance in Hopwood DePree’s ‘The Last Big Attraction’.
Last but not least, his latest CD 'Ten songs in the key of madness' has been voted #5 among Bilboard's Staff Top Ten, next to another Whiskfun favourite, John Fogerty's 'Déja vu all over gain'.
Serge: Diego, please tell us briefly about what you do, music-wise.
Diego Sandrin: I got my first record deal at 15, I formed a punk band in Pordenone Italy called Ice and the Iced, we were pretty succesful, our 7” published in 1981 is now selling in Ebay at around 300$. Now I have a record deal with Sirius Satellite Radio in New York and published my CD “Ten songs in the key of Madness”. I am a Singer/Songwriter in the style of Elliott Smith or Nick Drake, acoustic Alternative is what they call it.
DIEGO SANDRIN
 Serge: Which other musicians are you playing with?
Diego: In the CD I had the pleasure and honour of having Pete Thomas on Drums (best known for his work with Elvis Costello) and Steve Jordan (Keith Richards, B.B. King, Sheryl Crow), also guitarist Smokey Hormel (Beck, Johnny Cash) and bassist John Conte (Peter Wolf, Ian Hunter). Teddy Zambetti produced it (Flying Burrito Brothers) and Niko Bolas Engineered and mixed it (Neil Young).
Serge: A great bunch of artistes, that's for sure... Which are your other favourite musicians?
Diego: I will say I never get tired of hearing Neil Young, Elliot Smith, Tom Waits, and anyone who can tell me a story with just a guitar and little else.
Serge: Which are your current projects?
Diego: I have just finished recording the 20 song demo for my new CD “Hayfields for Varenne” which will be recorded this fall in LA.
Serge: Now, when did you start enjoying whisky? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Diego: Oh yes! During my Punk band days it was Jack Daniels, then it turned to Macallan (of course, I AM Italian right?!) it was a 25y distilled in 1965, I never tasted anything so smooth, later I discovered that the 8 yo Macallan bottles from the 80s with the plastic cap bottled for Italy had in them a very special nectar, some amazing casks with an unusual amount of sherry in them, soooo smooth you could not drip it from the glass, so I bought 50 of them! I still have some and still enjoy it with dessert.
Serge: Ah yes, the one that was imported by Rinaldi I guess... What’s your most memorable whisky?
Diego: Again it had to be a Macallan Glenlivet 37 yo from 1940, the ones with the red writing from G&M imported by Co Import. I have been told these are the same bottles which have been rebottled by Macallan in their very expensive “Vintage” line, I really love that whisky.
Serge: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Diego: I am an avid collector, I own about 800 bottles of all kinds, but I can say I am just a novice dilectant when it comes to tasting whisky, only recently I have started to get used to drinking peated malts and I must say its getting addicting, like with Sushi or Truffles, the taste is acquired but when you’re there you can’ go back and that’s whats happening to me now, I had some Ardbegs and Port Ellens and old Laphroaig and I think I am hooked so I am shifting from Higland to Islay in then recent times.
Serge: And are there whiskies you don’t like?
Diego: The new Macallans do not impress me much although I haven’t had many, I don’t like Auchentoshan and the new Glenfarclas bottlings (15 yo ).
Serge: I must say I liked the new Glenfarclas 'Quarter Casks'! Something else, ‘If the river was whisky baby, and I was a diving duck’ is one of the most famous and well used whisky lyrics, from sea-shanties to blues and rock and roll. Do you have a favourite musical whisky reference?
Diego: “Show me the way to the next whisky bar” by The Doors has to be my favourite, especially because It is followed by “ Show me the way to the next little girl” if you know what I mean! Also Elliot Smith on his superb and Academy Award nominated “ Miss Misery” starts with “ I will fake it through the day with some help from Johnny Walker Red…” I also wrote many references to whisky in my songs of course, like in “Broken down, I do” I wrote “ She lives in the city, she lives for the pretty good chance that one day I ‘ll go by, with the blessing of a gipsy, and a bottle of whisky, I soon found my way to her house…”
Serge: Music and whisky are often though of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Diego: Absolutely YES! My girlfriend is a true whisky expert, she does not drink much of it but she knows every decent bottling of Scotch ever made, she has the passion for collecting as myself and we own the collection 50/50.
Serge: In some ways you could argue that tasting a whisky is similar to listening to a piece of music – you deconstruct the two in the same way? Care to comment?
Diego: I completely agree, although I am not good at tasting Serge, maybe I can convince you to give me some lessons on it?
Serge: Well, I’m sure you’re just being modest, Diego… Now, do you have a favourite piece of music to drink whisky with, or better still, desert island dram, desert island disc?
Diego: I would take Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” and listen to The River drinking my unopened Springbank 12 yo 57,1% Imported by Samaroli, I’ve heard its fantastic stuff, and when that is gone I will open my Samaroli Bowmore bouquet 1966! That should be a nice island time yes?
Serge: Yeah well, looks like everybody likes these monsters… And if Scotch was for rock and rollers, can you think of which brand? What would be the Scotch equivalent of rappers drinking Cristal?
Diego: Actually I was hoping the new Bruichladdich could become the rock’n’roll Scotch, but then they started coming out with so many bottlings I got confused! But their Legacy was damn good and it has a nice “I’m not letting go of this” look, good enough to become a Rock Icon.
Many thanks Diego (and Luc).
Links of interest:
Diego's official website
Diego's Myspace page
 
TASTING - TWO GREAT BOWMORES
Bowmore 12 yo 1991 ‘Baffo Forever Edition No.2’ (46%, Whiskyauction, 311 bottles) A tribute to Eduardo Giaccone, the great late Italian whisky connoisseur and collector. ‘Baffo’ was his nickname. Colour: white wine. Nose: an ultra-clean start on freshly cut apples, fresh oysters and whiffs of wood smoke. Develops on notes of lemon, seaweed, black pepper and hints of fresh butter. Add to that a little bread and you have a perfect oyster meal – I’m only half-joking. Archetypical, and of course hugely enjoyable. Bowmore 12yo 1991 ‘Baffo Forever Edition No.2’ (46%, Whiskyauction, 311 bottles)
Mouth: excellent news, it’s still typical (lemon, peat, sea) but it’s also got its own special flavours such as anise sweets, lavender sweets (‘good’ lavender), even raw fennel… And then lots of pepper. Incredibly assertive despite the relatively low strength. And we have a long finish on all these flavours plus a little carmel and hints of liquorice, not to forget the expected salty tang. A perfect young Bowmore, perfectly clean (if you see what I mean). Congrats to Whiskyauction for having selected this one, and for paying homage to Signor Giaccone. 90 points.
Bowmore 1991/2005 (59.6%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, sherry, cask #575) Colour: deep amber. Nose: lots of power, really explosive, starting on gingerbread, leather and pipe tobacco. Hugely complex, it appears, even at that strength and without water. Superb notes of espressso coffee, balsamic vinegar, bitter caramel, wine and meat sauce, cocoa (or 100% cocoa chocolate for that matter). Goes on with hints of game, poble (Mexican sauce)… Really beautiful and Really special. Let’s see what water will do… With water: gets a bit farmier as often, with notes of ‘good’ manure, horse stable, new plastic (which is nice here), brand new car… And also lots of clove, finally going back to gingerbread and leather. Amazing. Mouth (neat): a powerful, almost invading attack on a concentrated ‘Bowmoreness’ (uh?) and high-end sherry. Again we have lots of tobacco (raw Habanero) but also prunes, something like cough syrup, tar, lots of spices, bitter oranges, wax, mastic, salted liquorice, high-end coffee flavoured toffee… It gets then very smoky and even more concentrated, like if they had cooked twenty litres of Bowmore and reduced them into one single litre. Amazingly rich! With water (while I’m at it…): gets a little dryer (adding water doesn’t work as greatly as on the nose) and slightly cardboardy but also hugely peppery – to the point that it starts to bite your tongue, even when reduced to roughly 45%. Amazing indeed, what a beast. As for the finish, it’s simply very long, going on with the same combination. A fabulous whisky in my books, one for lovers of extreme malty adventures – and one that will put you in a good mood just like that. 94 points (thanks, K.!)
  

August 9, 2006


 
CONCERT REVIEW by Nick Morgan
NANCI GRIFFITH AND THE BLUE MOON ORCHESTRA
Shepherds Bush Empire, London, August 1st 2006
It’s blisteringly hot in London. This is when, as the tabloids would have it, temperatures ‘soar’ and records ‘tumble’. Luckily half of the capital seems to have gone on holiday, so at least there’s a little less traffic, and the tubes and trains aren’t too congested. But there are still enough people left to fill the Shepherds Bush Empire to see Nanci Griffith and her Blue Moon Orchestra ‘though I observe that she normally plays much larger venues when she visits (the soulless Albert Hall) so either Nanci’s star is somewhat on the wane, or the promoters have downsized due to the time of year. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
We’re standing on the first floor of the Bush on the side balcony with a fantastic view over the stage – one of the best spots in the theatre. The guy next to me is far too animated for such a sedate evening – whoopin’ and a hollerin’ all night long - and it turns out, is a fan of the Del McCoury Band, who play a blinding set before Ms Griffith takes the stage. Red hot bluegrass with veteran Del leading with all that barely comprehensible Grand Ole Opry smoozing, but singing with remarkable clarity for a man of advanced years. Star of the show was son Ronnie on mandolin – he’s picked up five successive "Mandolin Player of the Year" awards from the International Bluegrass Association – who played like a dervish. His brother Rob on banjo also had his moments, as did fiddle player Jason Carter. True to Opry style they made the stage shrink to the size of a radio studio as they played in tight formation around their Audio-Technica 4033 microphone.
Del McCoury Band Songs included ‘Promised land’ (from their most recent album of gospel tunes), ‘My love will never change’, John Sebastian’s ‘Nashville cats’ (outstanding) ‘Body and soul’, Hank William’s ‘You win again’. Del was also keen to play requests – “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” shouted Mr Excited next to me. “Well”, said Del, “this is a little bitty tune by your very own Richard Thompson from Englandshire which we recorded back there in Nashville, why it must have been….” It wasn’t bad. If you get a chance go and see them and you can judge for yourself.
Nanci Griffith is always a delight to watch. She is charm personified, her between song anecdotes and meanderings both engaging and unpredictable. You could sometimes wish that some of weaker material didn’t get in the way of the chat. She’s slight and lithe, and shimmies around the stage whenever she can, a bundle of energy and delight. She’s a survivor too. Her voice is rich and resonant, and not with the same high pitched nasal twang that she speaks with (the Photographer told me that this could be irritating, were it not for the fact that Ms Griffith is so nice).
Nanci Griffith     She plays a pretty good guitar too. As does Clive Gregson, who delivers a Fender Telecaster master class – Gregson’s a long time collaborator and former member of the Richard Thompson Band. Blue Moon Orchestra leader James Hooker was characteristically impassive and note perfect, whilst drummer Pat McInerney and bass player Le Ann Etheridge also did their stuff without any fuss or performance. They were all just great, but somehow the gig didn’t quite add up to the sum of all their parts.
It’s not quite a greatest hits show as there’s a lot of material from 2004’s Hearts in Minds, ‘Simple life’, ‘Love conquers all’, Gregson’s ‘I love this town’, ‘You are beautiful’, ‘Last train home’ and ‘Heart of Indochine’ (a moving anti-war song that linked into Griffith’s work on behalf of the Mines Advisory Group). And of course there’s ‘John Prine’s ‘Speed of the sound of loneliness’, ‘The flyer’, ‘Gulf Coast highway’, ‘From a distance’, ‘Late night grand hotel’, ‘Working in corners’, ‘Love at the five and dime’, ‘Listen to the radio’ and ‘It’s a hard life’. All very well sung and perfectly played, but as I say it didn’t quite seem to add up. Maybe some of the old material is a little too old, a little over-sentimental (“gooey” was the Photographer’s word), and maybe some of the new material is a little over-sentimental too (‘You are beautiful,’ about her piano playing stepfather might fall into that category). But I suppose there’s nothing wrong with wearing your heart on your sleeve, particularly when it can be done with such elegance.
Conclusion – Ms Griffith is still a great act and worth a look should you get the chance, but tread carefully with your choice of albums. And British TV viewers might like to know (as she confided in us) that Ms Griffith would swap her whole career for a cameo appearance in BBC’s soap opera EastEnders – so next time a lady picks up the guitar and sings in the Queen Vic just pay attention, it might be Nanci. - Nick Morgan (gig photograph by Kate)
Thank you so much, Nick. That landmine stuff is really scary and disgusting and I hate to hear some governments’ double talk – nauseates me. 154 countries have signed Ottawa's ban treaty (the UK and France included, phew) but 40 countries haven’t signed it yet (including, should I add of course, a certain huge Western ‘democracy’ – no, not Monaco). Please see also Handicap International. By the way, I’ve added a picture of a piece of paper I found in London two or three years ago, there were lots of such ‘papers’ lying in the streets – very effective. But maybe Whiskyfun isn’t the place for such serious ramblings, so back to Nanci Griffith with Big blue ball of war.mp3 from Hearts in Mind, 2004). Well, it's quite serious too...
 
TASTING - TWO FABULOUS BALMENACHS
Balmenach-Glenlivet 14 yo (57.5%, OB, early 1970’s) Colour: full amber. Nose: not overly expressive at first nosing but there’s lots of elegance in there. A beautiful, refined sherry that tends towards balsamic vinegar, high-end soy sauce, prune sauce. Then we have chestnut honey, honeydew, ganache and cappuccino… And finally flowers such as violets, old roses, ginger liqueur (that stuff that smells so nice but tastes so weird), gingerbread, bitter oranges… A fantastic old sherry monster that’s all elegance. Balmenach-Glenlivet 14yo (57.5%, OB, early 1970’s)
Mouth: wow, it’s very powerful after all these years, punchy, starting on truckloads of nougat and developing on old sweet wine, all sorts of roasted nuts, buttered caramel and very strong honey. Goes on with crystallized oranges, liquorice, sloe gin… Hints of rubber, quince fruit jelly. The finish is very long, liquoricy, jammy and quite salty… Ah, these wonderful old whiskies! 92 points.
Balmenach 1976/2006 ‘30th Anniversary of Kirsch Import’ (52.9%, G&M reserve, sherry hogshead #1765, 230 bottles) Colour: deep mahogany. Nose: maybe not as complex as its older sibling at first nosing but it is a very nice sherry (the malt isn’t really important here). Meatier than the 14 yo , more chocolaty but also more camphory and resinous. Superb notes of pine needles. It’s incredibly fresh in fact, getting more complex by the minute with hints of shells, espresso coffee, cashews, toasts… Really excellent, quite dry and with a great ‘rectitude’ – try this instead of Kahlua or Tia Maria! Mouth: alert! it’s an invasion! A monstrous, yet hugely enjoyable sherry, like a mixture of liquid chocolate, coffee, triple-sec and all sorts of candied and dried fruits. Dates, figs, prunes, oranges, bananas, pineapples… Sure it’s a bit thick but thickness means richness here. Also roasted nuts, maple syrup, nutmeg… Excellent, and we have a long, typically ‘sherried’ finish with its usual saltiness at the end; even the rubber is perfect. So, that’s a perfect sherry monster, happy birthday Kirsch Import – and thanks Konstantin. Amazing that it managed to hack it ‘against’ the old 14 yo . 93 points.
  

August 8, 2006


TASTING - FOUR LAPHROAIGS
Laphroaig 16yo 1987/2004 (46%, Silver Seal, 770 bottles)
Laphroaig 16 yo 1987/2004 (46%, Silver Seal, 770 bottles) Colour: pale amber. Nose: quite some sherry, with notes of rubber and roasted nuts that do not let the malt shine through too much at first nosing. It’s soon to get quite leafy and earthy, with something distinctly medicinal now (iodine, embrocation). Hints of bitter caramel and chlorophyll, pu-erh tea, walnuts… Getting nicer and more complex by the minute. Quite some liquorice as well, shells, bitter oranges… A nice one, in fact, despite the rather heavy rubber. Mouth: again lots of sherry and quite some roundness and sweetness but the balance between the sherry and the peat is now almost perfect. Lots of milk chocolate, bitter oranges, black pepper, something resinous, chlorophyll again, quite some tannins… And a big peat blast as a finale despite a medium long but almost perfect, smoky and earthy finish. Another interesting malt that needs your time and attention but that’s not ungrateful. 89 points. (and thanks Christophe)
Laphroaig 8 yo 1998/2006 (48.5%, The Whisky Fair ‘Artist Edition’) An unusually low ABV considering the age, or does that mean that the cask spent all of its short life on Islay? Colour: white wine. Nose: starts very maritime and very interestingly fruity. Lots of gooseberries, strawberries and kiwis and a much lower peat level than in most young Laphroaigs. Feels like if the peat was here just to season a fruit salad. It gets then stony, flinty, with also notes of marshmallows. Very unusual, very interesting. It seems that our friends at The Whisky Fair make it a point of honour to select unusual, yet very good casks and I say that’s a brilliant idea, congrats. Mouth: it’s all in keeping with the nose at first sip except that the peat arrives in full glory after just a few seconds. Much more classical in fact, quite medicinal and maritime, with also notes of walnut skin, white pepper and smoked tea. Classic but excellent, especially when considering its young age. The finish is long, full, compact, very ‘Laphroaig’ now. A speedy maturing (so it wasn’t on Islay, was it?) and an excellent result. 90 points.
Laphroaig 12 yo 1993 ‘Hebridean Light’ (54.5%, Art of Whisky, cask #2433) Colour: white wine. Nose: starts clean, pure, crisp, on lemon juice, seaweed and smoke with hints of grain. As classically Laphroaigish as it can get. Goes on with hints of paraffin, burning candle… Notes of rubber band, wet stone and finally quite some lily of the valley and almond milk. Not complicated but rather perfect. Mouth: sweet, extremely lemony, fruity (kiwi juice), smoky, peaty… I couldn’t be more typical. A certain waxiness, grassiness… All that isn’t complex but so perfectly balanced and compact, with a long, very coherent finish… Now, it lacks ‘difference’, especially after the 8 yo we just had. In other words, ‘just another excellent young Laphroaig’, but that’s more than enough to deserve 88 points in my books.
Laphroaig 12 yo 1993 (54.8%, Jack Wieber’s Auld Distillers, 287 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: very similar, maybe just a tad more spirity (it can’t be the 0.3%, can it?) and maybe a little more closed. Maybe the lemon juice is also a bit more present. Mouth: again it’s very similar, maybe a tad rounder and even more compact, with some added liquorice and maybe even more wax/resin. In short, it’s just as excellent. I sort of preferred the AoW’s nose but this palate is slightly more satisfying, so, same rating: 88 points (and thanks, Konstantin).
Laphroaig 15yo 1969/1985 (55.3%, Intertrade) And also Laphroaig 15 yo 1969/1985 (55.3%, Intertrade) Maybe sweeter and less peaty than many other older versions of Laphroaig on the nose but extremely assertive. The mouth is really explosive, very peaty now and hugely lemony with also superb notes of fresh kiwi. A sharper palate than, say the 10 yo C/S’s. Another excellent oldie worth 92 points in my books.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 

 

MUSICRecommended listening - An interesting version of Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill.mp3 by Holland's Elles Springs. Please buy her music!

Elles Springs
  

August 7, 2006


TASTING - FOUR HAKUSHUS BY SUNTORY
Hakushu 18yo (43%, OB, 2006)

Hakushu 18 yo (43%, OB, 2006) Colour: gold. Nose: quite aromatic, starting on bananas, papayas and elegant oaky tones, the latter growing bigger by the minute with quite some vanilla, a little varnish, brand new wooden cupboard… Switches to ginger ale and pear eau-de-vie after a moment, canned pineapples… A slight sourness (green apples). Rather different and quite enjoyable even if I feel it lacks compactness. Huge notes of nutmeg appearing aftyer a while. Mouth: the attack is very woody, tannic, slightly astringent but there’s also the same very nice fruitiness as on the nose, with lots of bananas again, dried lychees, walnut skin, almonds, cider apple… The finish is rather long, still quite tannic and maybe a tad papery but the whole is a good, rather unusual whisky. 80 points (and thanks, Misako).

Hakushu 1994/2005 (58%, OB, cask #4Z05405, bourbon, 176 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts quite bourbonny but not only. Rather bold, hugely vanilled and oaky (carpenter’s workshop). It reminds me of some recent Glenmorangies (truffle oak, Missouri and so on). It gets then quite spicier (cinnamon, curry, lots of nutmeg again), with notes of sandalwood, incense, ripe strawberries, bananas again…. I must say I like this one, the wood being very present but quite perfectly integrated. Ah, yes, also hints of old roses… Mouth: powerful and playful, the wood and the fruits having mingled quite perfectly here. Quite close to some bourbons in fact, just not as sweet and vanilled. The oak gives a rather huge but soft spiciness. Quite some apple compote as well, white pepper, grilled bananas… And a long, balanced, spicy – oaky finish. This one is very oaky but not too oaky. I liked it. 86 points.
Hakushu 1988/2003 (61%, OB, cask #8J40514, bourbon, 132 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this one is much more phenolic, peaty, almost resinous. I must say this peatiness works well with the rather extreme woodiness, it gives the malt sort of an extra-dimension. Antiques shop, old polished furniture, hints of turpentine, cigar box, leather, shoe polish… Lots happening in there, even if it’s not precisely refined and elegant. Imagine an old Jaguar, burr walnut, Connolly leather and all that… Too bad the whole is a bit rough. Mouth: peat right away, then wax, then spices. Goes on with chewing tobacco (I know, yuk, but it’s nice here), peppered cooked fruits, smoked ham, smoked tea… Gets a little too hot, let’s try it with water: we have the same profile expect an added waxiness and quite some salt coming through. Now, the very long finish is very interesting, with an unusual mix of ripe bananas, smokiness and pepper. I liked this one even better than the unpeated versions, it was really entertaining. 88 points (and thanks, Bert).
Hakushu 1989/2005 (63%, OB, cask #9W50004, sherry, 453 bottles) Colour: mahogany. Nose: starts just on plain, pure, crisp sherry, with a most enjoyable freshness and no ‘thickness’ whatsoever. Superb notes of high-end coffee, old orange liqueur (Grand Marnier’s special cuvees), fruit jam (but it’s not the cloying kind of jam), high quality chocolate… Goes on with lots of armagnac soaked prunes, very old sweet wine (like Rivesaltes or Maury), Smyrna raisins... I must say I don’t quite get where the malt is in there but the sherry is absolutely perfect. Delicious sweetmeat! Mouth: granted, it’s a bit pungent at that strength but so perfectly sherried. Most importantly, there’s no rubber, no sourness, no roughness, just plain, pure crisp sherry (I insist). Let’s see what happens with a few drops of water now (while the nose gets even more delicious): it really starts to resemble the very best armagnacs (best from Gelas or private cuvees from Domaine du Bouté). Thick, creamy, extremely satisfying and totally flawless… I think I fell in love with this one. Perfection made in Japan, even if I’d call this an armasky – or a whiskgnac. 93 points. (and thanks, Bert and Ho-cheng)
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 

 

MUSICRecommended listening - Today we have Baxter Dury (son of late Whiskyfun favourite Ian Dury) doing Cocaine man.mp3. Apples never fall far from the tree, they say... Please buy Baxter (and Ian's) music!

Baxter Dury
  

August 6, 2006


PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 
TASTING - TWO YOUNG DARK BUNNAHABHAINS
Bunnahabhain 12yo ‘Islay Festival 2005’ (53.4%, OB, Port wood finish, 766 bottles) Bunnahabhain 12 yo ‘Islay Festival 2005’ (53.4%, OB, Port wood finish, 766 bottles) I already tasted this one several times but never took proper notes. Colour: amber – salmony. Nose: rather hot at first nosing, marked by the red fruits (strawberries, raspberries) but with also a nice freshness. Notes of coffee. Gets fruitier and fruitier with time, with also hints of flowers (peonies, typically). Nice balance although it’s almost more hugely fortified Port than Port-flavoured whisky.
Mouth: powerful and immensely fruity again, together with a little pepper. Almost too hot, let’s try it with a little water: still very fruity but a little more complex, with quite some melon coming through, ripe peaches… Still very sweet, almost sugarish now. The finish is long, very long, on overripe strawberries and pepper. Hmmm, not exactly my cup of tea, I’m afraid, it’s too ‘easily’ sweet and fruity, but it’s not flawed either. 74 points.
Bunnahabhain 7 yo 1998/2005 (59.3%, Adelphi, cask #2921) Colour: similar but more orange. Nose: much more sherried, less fruity, more on cake, caramel, toffee and fruitcake. Whiffs of smoke, huge notes of Werther’s, hot cake, pastries… And now we have the red fruits, mostly strawberry jam and liqueur. A little more complex than the OB, less ‘rashly’ fruity. Very nice balance, at that, nicely integrated despite its young age. Mouth: powerful and very sweet but, curiously, more easily drinkable without water than the OB. Lots of crystallised oranges, apricot jam, praline, caramel, the whole being quite simple and maybe too direct. Growing notes of rubber, slightly disturbing. With water: gets even more caramelly, also nuttier, creamier… Almost like a hazelnut liqueur, with slightly shorter, but more balanced finish with something ashy in the background. Certainly better in my books but still not a winner. Both were probably a little too simple. 82 points.

 

MUSICRecommended listening - It's Sunday, we go (sort of) classical with a tribute to the great Elisabeth Schwarzkopf who passed away last week. She's singing Rudolph Sieczynski's Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume.mp3 (Vienna, city of my dreams) beautifully - I think it's on Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut OST. Please buy Dame Schwarzkopf's music!

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
  

August 5, 2006


TASTING - TWO IMPERIALS
Imperial 16yo 1976/1993 (43%, The Master of Malt, cask #7560) Imperial 16 yo 1976/1993 (43%, The Master of Malt, cask #7560) Colour: white wine. Nose: ouch, very difficult. Starts with quite some clay, wet chalk, Alka Seltzer (I know, ‘no brands’ but…) Extremely mashy… Porridge, muesli, iron, cardboard… Just a little vanilla… That all, folks. Ah, no, also some fresh apples after a moment. Gets slightly better with time but it’s still quite hard. Mouth: quite powerful but very herbal, bitter at the attack. Also cardboardy, chalky… Develops on orange skin, baking soda, gin… The finish is rather long but disturbingly salty and papery… A very bizarre malt, I think. 66 points.
Imperial 24 yo 1977 (57.6%, Cadenhead) Colour: gold. Nose: a very weird start on cooked cabbage and pills (you know, when you open a new medicines box). Something like burnt bakelite, tar, iron again, rotting oranges… And yes, wet cardboard. Hum… Thank God it gets a little better with time, with fruity notes arising (apples). Vanilla-flavoured caramel. Something minty as well… Cough syrup? Now I get even a little peat, something nicely farmy… Quite a pull-up! Mouth: better than the MoM although it’s rather weirdly herbal again at first sip. Lots of salted liquorice, medicine, cold un-sugared coffee, ‘chemical’ vanilla crème (canned)… Goes on with even more liquorice and now rubber bands (remember, at school). I must say it’s interesting; it works like Proust’s Madeleine (a sudden flavour or a smell that revives old memories). Baking soda again, tapioca… The finish is long, rather bold and quite cleaner, mostly on caramel and salted liquorice. Well, I’d say this one isn’t worth more than 70 points organoleptically but I’d go as far as 80 points because it’s really ‘interesting’.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 

 

MUSICHighly recommended listening - I don't know why I felt the sudden urge to post Move over.mp3 by Janis Joplin. Why, oh why? And oh, yes; let's have Summertime.mp3 again (the Cheap Thrills version)...

Janis Joplin
  

August 4, 2006


TASTING - FOUR LOCH LOMONDS
Inchmurrin 12yo (40%, OB, circa 2005)
Loch Lomond distillery produces various kinds of malts. Inchmurrin is among the unpeated versions, while Craiglodge, Inchmoan and Croftengea are increasingly peaty expressions. There's also the famous Loch Lomond Blue Label, Captain Haddock and friend Jean-Marie P.'s favourite ;-).
Inchmurrin 12 yo (40%, OB, circa 2005) Colour: pale amber. Nose: extremely grainy and caramelly, with all sorts of cereals. Hints of lavender. Very simple but not unpleasant. Mouth: things are getting worse now, with something like old stale honey, dust, cardboard, cheap liquid caramel for cooking. This one is close to a lower shelf blend. Short and weak finish… Okay, it isn’t completely undrinkable and better than a kick in the teeth as the Scots say but the newest Littlemill and Glen Scotia from the same series are much better I think. 60 points.
Craiglodge 2001/2005 (45%, OB, Distillery Select, Cask #223, 434 Bottles) Colour: almost white. Nose: light and spirity and first nosing, mostly on pear and mash. Very little wood influence if any, some would think it’s vodka. Notes of porridge, mashed potatoes… Very little peat that I can get… Wait, now I get a little smoke (fireplace). Not particularly flawed, that is, rather clean. Mouth: very sweet and spirity, as close to fruit spirit as it can get. Hints of plums, apple juice… And quite some black pepper. Is that the peat? The finish is medium long, not unpleasant at all, with a nice after burn. A modest expression but, as we say, we’ve seen worse. 68 points.
Inchmoan 2001/2005 (45%, OB, Distillery Select, Cask #53, 397 bottles) Colour: almost white. Nose: light again but now we do get whiffs of peat indeed. Alas, I think the loss of the pear aromas isn’t really an asset here, the whole being even less expressive than the Craiglodge’s. Smoked muesli? Mouth: we’re now closer to kind of a diluted new make from Islay. Again quite some black pepper, muesli, Greek yoghurt, boiled cereals… The finish is rather long and very peppery. Peppered vodka? Gorilka? 65 points.
Croftengea 1996/2005 (45%, OB, Sherry finished, cask #283, 380 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: starts on more peat as expected as well as on a rather dry and chocolaty sherry. Goes on with notes of smoked ham, coal, butter and something very ashy. Kippers. Nice balance, no flaws, quite pleasant. Mouth: a rather coherent attack, dry and peaty, soon to get both very coffeeish and very farmy. The black pepper is even bolder here… Gets also very meaty (grilled beef) as well as quite cardboardy, with a rather long and slightly hot finish on chilli and roasted peanuts. Different, interesting and encouraging. 80 points.

 

MUSICHighly recommended listening - We had a great interview with ex-distillery manager and blues musician Mike Nicolson (Lagavulin, Lochnagar, Caol Ila etc) on July 28 but we didn't have a sample of his music at hand. That's now repaired, thanks to a very high-placed source in the UK, with this excerpt (a collector's item!) from a CD recorded with 95° proof in the old Malt Mill buildings at Lagavulin. (Picture - Mike is at the right).

Mike Nicolson
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 
  

August 3, 2006


MUSIC AND WHISKY INTERVIEW - NEIL CAMPBELL
Neil Campbell It’s no secret we like experimental and avant-garde music at Whiskyfun, even if we feel an ‘avant-garde’ that lasts since the 1940’s or the 1950’s – do you remember Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry’s musique concrète (concrete music)? – can’t be quite called avant-garde anymore.
Indeed, collage, industrial or atmospheric samples and loops, ‘cosmicallity’ or ‘bruitisme’ (noisism?) are now really part of our common musical culture but Britain’s legendary Neil Campbell, ‘a veteran of the U.K. underground drone music scene’ (copyright allmusic.com), is a very good example of a talented musician who keeps the ‘genuine’ flame alive, who manages not to fall into all the traps created by the easy use of computers in music and who adds his very own and very worthy contribution to the 'true' edifice. Neil also happens to enjoy his single malt so we were very happy to be able to interview him.
Serge: Neil, please tell us briefly about what you do, music-wise.
Neil Campbell: I’m main musical director of Astral Social Club. Up until recently, I also played as part of Vibracathedral Orchestra. I also play with other people from time to time in ad hoc formations.
In all my musical ventures I aim towards creating a joyous sound that will lift both listener and performer to some sort of time-less, ego-less plane. I want ecstatic overload, blown-out pleasure sound, rapid transportation to higher realms. Sounds lofty, but it’s actually quite ramshackle and quotidian, usually comprising a primitive droning racket on strings, electronics and good old-fashioned hollering, all held together with figurative string and sellotape and slammed down onto tape in the quickest and dirtiest manner. Whatever, it’s rarely polite.
Serge: Which other musicians are you playing or did you play with?
Neil: I’ve played with all manner of other people over the years, including A Band, Julian Bradley, John Clyde-Evans, Decaer Pinga, Sticky Foster, Rob Hayler, Campbell Kneale, Paekong Mae, Skullflower, Smell + Quim, Sunroof!, Universal Indians, Stewart Walden and Richard Youngs.
Serge: Which are your other favourite artistes?
Neil: Too many to name, and the list changes constantly, but right now it would included The Skaters, Theo Parrish, Pharoah Sanders, Wolfgang Voigt, Excepter, Velvet Underground, Richie Hawtin, Throbbing Gristle, Axolotl, Miles Davis, Cluster, Incapacitants, Sun Ra, Phil Spector, Can, Wolf Eyes, etc etc, plus more generic stuff like 60s Motown, renaissance choral music and gaelic psalmody.
Serge: Which are your current projects?
Neil: I’ve just completed an Astral Social Club CD for vhf records, am working on a double LP for textile records and myriad small-run CDR-type things for more underground distribution. I play live whenever anyone offers me a nice gig and my circumstances allow me – no touring, no promoting product or anything.
Serge: When did you start enjoying whisky? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Neil: I’m from a Scottish household, so whisky’s always been around, but generally just cheap blends. I think I realised it was something a little more pleasurable around the start of my 20s. No real musical link though.
Serge: What’s your most memorable whisky?
Neil: Passing a big duty free bottle of Lagavulin around between the band and various well-wishers in the freezing cold outside a club in Olso after Vibracathedral Orchestra had played there. We knew drinks were ridiculously expensive in Norway, so had arrived prepared. It seemed a slightly barbaric treatment of my favourite whisky, but needs must!
Serge: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Neil: West Coast almost all the way – Lagavulin is top of my “can afford to drink” pile, then Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Talisker, Oban … Highland Park is my wild card. I guess these are “heavy” tastes that many people haven’t acquired, and the music I make and listen to often is kinda heavy and maybe an acquired-taste. Maybe there’s a link?
Serge: Are there whiskies you don’t like?
Neil: Obvious stuff, like the fake whisky I tasted in France once … but, y’know, even Bell’s has its place.
Serge: Ah, yes, maybe you had that vile stuff called 'Hopkins' we do have on some shelves here. There's only 2 or 3% whisky into it and it's awful, I agree. Now, do you have a favourite piece of music to drink whisky with, or better still, desert island dram, desert island disc?
Neil: Whisky’s often a late-night pleasure for me, so I’d probably be spinning something like Tallis’ “spem in alium”, side 2 of “tribute to Jack Johnson” by Miles Davis or Spykes’ “silent locks” LP.
Serge: Everyone thinks of Jack Daniels as being the great rock and roll whisky – why not Scotch?
Neil: If I was gonna be pedantic I would say because rock’n’roll originates from the southern states of the USA. If I wanted to be contentious, I’d put it down to the cultural imperialism of the USA and rock’n’roll’s willingness to be co-opted by vile capitalist branding. Whatever, it’s probably for the best. Would you wanna see some horrible band swigging Lagavulin straight from the bottle outside a club near you any time soon?

Many thanks, Neil!
Links of interest:
Astral Social Club's myspace page
Vibracathedral Orchestra's official website

 
Glenfarclas 1986/2003 (43%, OB for Germany, fino sherry, 1800 bottles)

TASTING - TWO GLENFARCLAS

Glenfarclas 1986/2003 (43%, OB for Germany, fino sherry, 1800 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: rather fresh, marked by the sherry but not too much, starting quite elegantly on apricot jam and a faint smokiness. Gets fruitier and fruitier, on crystallised oranges and tangerines, sweet white wine such as Monbazillac, notes of rose jelly, fruit drops… Really playful and extremely fruity. A genuine sweet.

Mouth: sweet and rounded, slightly more caramelly than fruity now. Tarte tatin, vanilla crème, milk chocolate, fruit pie topped with liquid caramel, Turkish delights… It’s all sweetness and that’s just fine. The finish isn’t too long but quite assertive, on caramel and candy sugar, corn syrup… Very sweet and very good but not extremely complex. 85 points.
Glenfarclas 1987/2006 ‘Quarter Casks’ (46%, OB, 1299 botles) A brand new expression. Colour: amber. Nose: we’re in the same family, that’s obvious here, but this one is a little less aromatic, less fruity but slightly woodier, although that woodiness isn’t excessive. Maybe more flowery (nectar, wild flowers). All that is very elegant, very enjoyable. Lots of ripe apricots, fresh pineapple developing after a moment. Nothing but direct pleasure. Mouth: again, firmer than the 1986, more structured by the tannins. Lots of roasted nuts, toasted pastries, praline, nougat, chocolate… Also cappuccino, vanilla (of course), something of a good demerara rum. Goes on with apricot pie and something slightly smoked. The finish is quite long, toasty and vanilled… The overall balance is good and there’s no sign of over-woodiness, which is good news. 87 points.
  

August 2, 2006


TASTING - SIX EXCELLENT BENRIACHS (or why Benriach is becoming a blue chip)
Benriach 19yo 1986/2006 (54.7%, OB for The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead #2972, 297 bottles)
Benriach 19 yo 1986/2006 (54.7%, OB for The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead #2972, 297 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: extremely fresh and fragrant, like a fresher and more ethereal version of a very good Balvenie. Starts on a huge fruit salad (apples, peaches, melons, apricots, bananas…) with whiffs of old roses and maybe a little bubblegum and marshmallows. Then we have hints of herbal teas (rosehip, hawthorn) and finally a certain grassiness that sort of counterbalances the extreme fruitiness. Mouth: again, the attack is immensely fruity, sweet but also quite spicy and peppery (quite some oak). Lots of pink grapefruit, apricot jam, ripe melon, quince jelly… Add to that a little caramel, quite some honey and a pinch of cinnamon and you get the picture. The finish is long, getting now maybe a tad too oaky and drying (and kind of a slight sourness – apple skins) but the whole is an excellent whisky that really delivers. Highly drinkable! 88 points.
Benriach 1976/2005 (57.6%, OB for Craigellachie Hotel, cask #8079, 144 bottles) Another feat of arms by excellent former manager of the bar Martin Markvardsen. Colour: gold. Nose: wow (sorry), this is complex! We do have the huge fruitiness (apples and bananas) but also lots of other aromas. First, beautiful notes of very old pu-erh tea (earthiness), then all sorts of herbal teas (camomile and again hawthorn), then hints of eucalyptus and camphor and finally a few tropical fruits for good measure: guavas, mangos, papayas, coconut milk… All that with a very elegant oaky structure. Almost perfect, one of these noses that may explain why Benriach is becoming a blue chip these days. Mouth: this one starts very resinous (if you know Compass Box’s Spice Tree, there are similarities), spicy, very creamy and buttery. Huge notes of coconut (again, the wood) and quite some smokiness. We do have that pu-erh tea again, with a growing ‘nice’ bitterness (chlorophyll). Almost thick and viscous but not cloying in any way. The finish is long, very resinous, nicely bitter – maybe traces of peat - , and the whole is an excellent whisky with a fantastic nose and an ‘invasive’ palate. Very firm! 91 points (and thanks Marcel)
Benriach 20 yo 1984/2004 (55%, OB, cask #627, 253 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this one is much more phenolic, even if not frankly peaty at first nosing, rather waxy and resinous. Gets then quite buttery… And then the peat takes off, rather in the smoked tea genre (lapsang souchong). We do have notes of seaweed and fisherman’s nest, that is… Also bitter oranges, orange flowers water (oriental pastries), but the whole is quite dry and seems to lack the beautiful fruitiness we had in both the ‘Whisky Fair’ and the ‘Craig’. Did the peat kill the fruits? Now, it’s still a very nice nose. Mouth: sweet, peaty, waxy and resinous but again, not too fruity. Notes of lavender sweets, quite some liquorice – excellent mouth feel. Hints of Provence herbs (thyme and rosemary, even sage and oregano). Keeps developing on chlorophyll chewing-gum, apple skins, walnuts again… And again a certain oiliness, with a long, thick, compact finish on all things resinous. Very, very good again despite the ‘non-fruitiness’ on the nose – and it keeps improving each time you taste it. 91 points. (and thanks Konstantin)
Benriach 25 yo 1979/2005 (57.5%, OB, peated, cask #10985, 228 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: little peat in this one at first nosing but the expected fruit blast does occur after just one or two seconds, even if the whole is a little less playful than with the ‘Whisky Fair’. Lots of freshly cut apples, quince, fresh walnuts, slowly switching to resinous notes (mastic, cough syrup, argan oil). Perfect balance – a great nose in fact. Mouth: ah, now we have lots of peat but also lots of dryness, with impressive tannins invading your mouth. Lots of tea (very infused), lots of apple skin, lightly sugared quince jelly, bitter oranges, almonds, strong coffee… That’s a little too much for my tastes I must say, especially the finish is quite drying (your tongue sticks to your palate as we say). Funny notes of icing sugar and strawberry drops at the very end. Anyway, it’s very good but not the best I think. 87 points.
Benriach 20 yo 1984/2005 (60%, OB for Potstill Austria, peated, cask #594, 240 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts much peatier than the other 1984, almost Islay style. Extremely waxy and almondy, developing on apple skins, walnuts, hints of dried coconut, bitter chocolate… It’s also very ashy, smoky (oven, fireplace) and rather mineral (clay). Gets also quite vegetal after a moment (newly cut grass, fern). Very good, again, beautifully dry, with a perfect balance but a certain lack of fruitiness. Mouth: starts quite sweet, very liquoricy and rather tannic, with a slight sourness on the tongue (cider apples). Lots of peat of course… The whole gets very peppery, spicy (hints at Talisker), quite mineral again, slightly chalky. Amazing that I don’t feel the need to add water despite the 60%. Mastic flavoured Turkish delights (I know, I know…) Long, very compact and coherent finish, on apple skin and peppered tea. Very good again but the other 1984 was a little more complex and satisfying. 87 points.
Benriach 10 yo 1994/2005 (61.1%, Signatory for Germany, cask #2027, 321 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: now we’re even closer to Islay’s style but with a rather extreme austerity. Tons of peat smoke, stones, seaweed, oysters (yes I know where Benriach is located) plus a certain farminess (wet hay, garden bonfire). Again, little fruit but quite some nuts (almonds, fresh hazelnuts). A beautiful rectitude and maturity at such young age. Mouth: ah yes, this one is the peatiest indeed. A beautiful austerity again with something that reminds me of a young Laphroaig. Huge smokiness, liquorice, infused tealeaves, black pepper, perfect bitterness… Punchy and elegant, with a very long, totally balanced peaty, smoky finish that lasts for hours. Well, almost. Great young stuff even if it’s not monstrously complex. 90 points.
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 
Milla Jovovich

 

MUSICRecommended listening - Unlikely? Not at all, Milla Jovovich's version of Lou Reed's Satellite of love.mp3 is quite good, I think. Sure she isn't La Callas (nor even Carla Bruni) but she's Milla... Please buy her music!

  

August 1, 2006


CELP ‘The Seaweed Experience’ 6yo (55%, The Ultimate Whisky Company, Holland)

TASTING - TWO 'LAGAVULINS'

CELP ‘The Seaweed Experience’ 6 yo (55%, The Ultimate Whisky Company, Holland) A young Lagavulin sheltering seaweed that’s supposed to be good for our health. Well, even if it’s not really true it’s funny so let’s applaud this crazy experiment… And taste it.

Colour: greenish. Nose: starts very maritime, to say the least, just like a huge plate of oysters on a bed of kelp. The seaweed is very obvious but the malt’s smokiness and crispiness do shine through. Not unpleasant at all, I must say, and rather balanced. Develops on diesel oil, lamp petrol, apple juice, hints of tequila… I quite like it. Mouth: now it’s getting a little weirder, with kind of a succession of various flavours that do not seem to mingle too well. Lime, green pepper, peat, grapefruit skin, cactus juice… And finally tequila. That’s it, a peaty tequila. Even the lemon is provided! Now, the finish is long, quite balanced and better integrated now, with just a pinch of salt. Yes, for the tequila… Anyway, all that is very funny and worth trying, especially because the price is quite fair (around 50 euros I think) and because it appears that the people who made this aren’t as deadly serious as some other experimenters. 85 points.
Cadenhead’s 1992/2006 (58%, Cadenhead, bottled by hand) Said to be Lagavulin. Colour: pale straw. Nose: sharp, very clean and fresh, with that typical Lagavulin fruitiness (lemon and pineapple drops). Bold whiffs of sea air, oysters and seaweed (but it’s less bold than in the CELP, obviously), getting maybe more flowery than usual (peonies, lilac). Goes on with gin fizz, hints of manzana (apple liqueur) and more and more iodine. As clean and pure as one can get, not too far from the official 12 yo ’s but cleaner - as well as a little less complex, I’d say. Mouth: a perfect attack, bold, punchy but gentle, very lemony but sweet, very smoky but balanced, with a most enjoyable ‘coastality’ and a certain saltiness. Very classy and not too ‘easy’, with a very pleasant sharpness. A prototypical Lagavulin with little wood influence and a long, perfectly integrated finish on smokiness, grapefruit juice and salt. Wouldn’t we love to be able to taste more different versions of that very classy malt called Lagavulin? 91 points.
And also Smokehead (43%, Ian McLeod) Simple but very clean and straightforward peat and smoke plus a crisp fruitiness (lemon, gooseberries). A totally flawless young peat monster, highly drinkable but probably not meant for 'tasting'. 85 points (because of its extreme cleanliness and because of the rock and roll label). Smokehead (43%, Ian McLeod)
 
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
 
 
Pato Banton

 

MUSICRecommended listening - A little reggae for a change with Sting's friend Pato Banton and his profession of faith I do not sniff the coke.mp3 (yes, he only smokes sinsemilia). Please buy this Pato Banton's music...


July 2006 - part 2 <--- August 2006 - part 1 ---> August 2006 - part 2


C
heck the index of all entries:
Whisky
Music
Nick's Concert Reviews
 

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Balmenach-Glenlivet 14 yo (57.5%, OB, early 1970’s)

Balmenach 1976/2006 ‘30th Anniversary of Kirsch Import’ (52.9%, G&M reserve, sherry hogshead #1765, 230 bottles)

Benriach 10 yo 1994/2005 (61.1%, Signatory for Germany, cask #2027, 321 bottles)

Benriach 1976/2005 (57.6%, OB for Craigellachie Hotel, cask #8079, 144 bottles)

Benriach 20 yo 1984/2004 (55%, OB, cask #627, 253 bottles)

Bowmore 12 yo 1991 ‘Baffo Forever Edition No.2’ (46%, Whiskyauction, 311 bottles)

Bowmore 1991/2005 (59.6%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, sherry, cask #575)

Cadenhead’s 1992/2006 (58%, Cadenhead, bottled by hand)

Clynelish 32 yo 1974/2006 (58.6%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 266 bottles)

Hakushu 1989/2005 (63%, OB, cask #9W50004, sherry, 453 bottles)

Laphroaig 8 yo 1998/2006 (48.5%, The Whisky Fair ‘Artist Edition’)

Laphroaig 15 yo 1969/1985 (55.3%, Intertrade)

Lochside 21 yo 1979/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 306 bottles)